Things are busy at dinCloud, a Cloud Services Provider (CSP) that helps organizations rapidly migrate to the cloud through a strong network of Value Added Resellers (VARs) and Managed Service Providers (MSPs). As the company makes a deeper commitment to hosted spaces, it is expanding its portfolio, says Ali M. Din, CMO, to give its customers a uniquely broad set of products. More announcements about its expanded portfolio are expected soon.
Channel Marketer Report sat down with Din as we rolled into the new year to talk about the opportunities and challenges of driving more business through the company’s partner network.
CMR — The business you’re in is getting crowded with a lot of different competitors and offerings. Is it getting more challenging to recruit and retain partners to represent your company?
Ali Din – For us, it’s not. We’ve actually had a very strong start already in the beginning of the year, so we’re not trying to recruit 10,000 or even a few thousand partners. For us, we’re being a bit more selective. I would agree that it is getting harder to recruit partners, but our message tends to resonate well with the partner community.
The reason for that is that there are a lot of vendors out there now. Within every category, there are so many choices, and you see a lot of look-alikes that are popping up. For a partner, it’s hard to distinguish what exactly is this vendor going to bring to the table, and how is this CSP different from the others, and how is this going to enhance my business or distinguish me.
There is definitely that challenge in the marketplace, but again, we feel that we give a little bit more of a hands-on approach with our partners and customers, and that helps us cut through that clutter and be able to have the conversation. Once we’ve recruited them, then we have to make sure that we do a better job of activating our partners and keeping them engaged.
CMR – What do you think is key to retaining partners?
Ali Din — It hasn’t been a challenge to keep partners that have already started conducting business with us, although we do want to have more engagement with them. The critical success factor is around onboarding.
Our onboarding/customer success team looked at partners where we were setting up an upfront conversation and sending out a plan of, “Okay, here’s what we want to do in the first 30 days with you. Go through some training. Make sure you build these certain materials and have the joined call.” They were significantly more successful than a partner that said, “Okay, good. I’m signed up. I’ll come back to you when I’m ready.”
There’s definitely a big difference in making sure that there’s a structure around onboarding a partner and setting milestones we can track. One is the partner understands what’s happening within those milestones and what to expect next. They also, as a partner, get to see that this organization, this vendor, has their act together so they have a better comfort level. They feel more comfortable because if that cloud service provider or that vendor is taking time to walk the partners through the right steps and methodology, then the partner is going to feel more comfortable that that’s going to also happen with the end customer.
CMR – What about the partners that say, “We’ll get back to you when we think we’re going to be doing something.”
Ali Din — That probably talks to the importance of when we’re recruiting the partners, doing the qualification upfront. Sometimes, it’s a matter of, “Okay. Somehow we came across this partner and maybe there is an opportunity.” But after we signed them up, either the opportunity went away, so the interest got lost. It’s hard to get the attention back from that partner if something like that happened. Outside of that situation, that’s something that we’re working on, trying to figure out how we can re-engage some of the partners where we haven’t been as proactive as we should be.
CMR – We’re reading mixed reports on how eagerly partners will participate in marketing activities. What’s your experience?
Ali Din – That’s probably the one thing that partners are really asking for, more support in marketing. That’s because they want to be able to confidently go to a customer or a prospect and have a conversation with them without having the vendor on the phone or in that meeting. Now, as their trusted adviser, they can have a more agnostic conversation. They can bring up the topic, they can talk about options, but they don’t have to feel like they’re tied to a specific vendor so that they bring a little bit more credibility to the customer.
They are asking for more marketing materials, whether it’s just collateral during the sale cycle or it’s more go-to-market content around digital marketing. But there’s a bit of an ask around, “Hey, we want to be able to do our own. We don’t need you to always be doing the air cover on the display ads or email marketing or social media. We want to be able to do some of that ourselves so that it comes with our brand bringing that to the end customer.” That would be one of the biggest things that they’re asking for.
CMR – That’s encouraging. More often than not, we hear that many partners don’t have the skills our resources to be effective marketers. Are you seeing an uptick in their capabilities?
Ali Din — That’s still a gap, especially with smaller partners. I would say the difference today is that most partners, if not all, recognize that they need marketing. Now, it’s a matter of, “How do I get the resource? How do I justify this?” Either it’s taking the person that’s – maybe the CRM admin, or taking someone that’s in Sales Ops and asking them to do some of the work part-time and guiding their existing resources to do this and learn on the fly. There is still a bit of a skill shortage or expertise missing, but they know that they need to have it. That’s one major hurdle that’s been crossed from the past.
CMR – You mentioned that you are expanding your own team of marketers. How will they help partners become stronger marketers?
Ali Din – What we’re trying to do right now is get them the assets, the content, and the material, and then let them work with it. What we’re working toward with this new team that we’re growing, starting this year, is to eventually be able to give partners the option to actually tap into our resource to do the work on their behalf so that if they do have that skill shortage, we can help them. But it would be very customized to them. It wouldn’t just be generic channel material.
CMR – It sounds like your new marketing team will strive to play a much more collaborative role with your partners.
Ali Din — It’ll depend on how the market adoption is and the feedback we get. Right now, it’s more of partners asking for something, and we turn it around, give it to them, and then see if they need anything else. What we’re trying to work toward is having more of an ongoing relationship. It’s not just a, “Hey, I need an asset. Can you help me with this?” and then we’re done. It would be more of an ongoing support, a managed service in a way where we were providing ongoing support. Maybe we’re saying, “Here’s a steady stream of social media content,” or “Here’s a steady stream of topics that you might want talk about and articles that you want to write.”
For now, in the initial stages, it’ll be more of ongoing support and ideas. Further down the line, as partners get that trust, maybe we’ll also end up helping them with their strategy. In the meantime, we’re going to defer to them to drive the strategy of what they want done and the approach they want to take. Eventually, we’d like to be able to even help them with their strategy of going to market because the visibility we have in the marketplace is broader.